Kyle Clifford, Ilya Bryzgalov, Michal Rozsival

Tonight in the West: Kings clinch spot, Blackhawks and Ducks build cushions

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Western Conference playoff race

p – 1. Vancouver – 113 pts (3 GR)
y-2. San Jose – 103 pts (2 GR)
y-3. Detroit – 102 pts (2 GR)
4. Nashville – 97 pts (2 GR)
5. Los Angeles – 98 pts (2 GR)
6. Phoenix – 97 pts (2 GR)
7. Anaheim – 95 pts (2 GR)
8. Chicago – 95 pts (2 GR)
e-9. Calgary – 93 pts (1 GR)
10. Dallas – 91 pts (3 GR)

p- clinched Presidents’ Trophy
z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot
e- eliminated from playoffs

Carolina 3, Detroit 0

Read the full recap here.

The Red Wings lost this game, but with the Sharks’ loss, they basically just stood in place tonight (albeit losing one of their last chances to improve). The biggest loss, though, came in the form of Henrik Zetterberg’s injury.

Chicago 4, St. Louis 3 (OT)

This game also received the fancy pants recap treatment, as you can read here.

Chicago now has a four-point lead over the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot, with two games left. They also ended the night tied with the Ducks with 95 points, although Anaheim holds a tiebreaker advantage that would force the Blackhawks to earn one more point. (The Ducks have 41 non-shootout wins to the ‘Hawks 37, so that advantage will remain.)

Dallas has three games left to close that four-point gap, with their schedule being decidedly easier that Chicago’s remaining schedule (even if two games against the Red Wings will be more manageable without Zetterberg). Still, Chicago also has two more non-shootout wins, so they hold a nice tiebreaker advantage too.

Most simply, Chicago could clinch a playoff spot with three points in their final two games, since the most points Dallas can get is 97. Dropping games – especially in regulation – could make things a lot more complicated.

Anyway, before we move on to the next game, here’s video of that much-debated Marian Hossa goal.

Calgary 6,  Edmonton

The Flames were eliminated from contention tonight, but Jarome Iginla reached 42 goals on the season with a hat trick in his first game since hitting the 1,000-point mark. It’s pretty hard to argue with Calgary’s decision not to trade Iggy, even if they fell just a bit short of the playoffs.

Anaheim 6, San Jose 2

This game was all about Corey Perry, who scored a hat trick to become the first (and possibly only) player in the NHL to hit 50 goals. Perry also had an assist, by the way. (Watch video footage of his great night here.)

The Ducks received a scare when Ray Emery left the net, but he was cleared to play (yet stayed on the bench since the score was so lopsided).

Anaheim can smell the playoffs at this point, but aren’t guaranteed a spot just now. All they need is two more points, though, because the Stars won’t be able to overcome the Blackhawks’ tiebreaker lead in non-shootout wins.

Los Angeles 3, Phoenix 2 (SO)

Jarret Stoll scored the Kings’ first goal and then earned the shootout winner (he’s nine for 10 in that category this season, by the way) to clinch a playoff berth for the Kings. The win also gives Los Angeles a brief hold of fourth place in the West, with 98 points on the season and two games left.

The loss also moves the Coyotes down to sixth place in the West, since the fifth-place Nashville Predators have one more win (both teams have 37 non-shootout wins, though).

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”

Sutter: Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

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Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.

The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.

“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”

“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”

Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.

“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”

The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…